I would like to thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for intervening in the land lease renewal dispute between the County Government of Murang’a, a handful of local residents, and Del Monte Kenya Limited.
It is my hope the Lands ministry and the National Land Commission (NLC) will now deploy their teams immediately and resurvey the entire 22,500 acres, Del Monte Kenya farm and determine once and for all whether the company is farming on more land than is demarcated in the deed plans annexed to the nine titles it holds. The titles deeds to these lands were issued in 1970 and 1973, respectively.
As a small business owner who benefits from Del Monte’s presence in Murang’a, I have watched with consternation as this dispute has been hijacked by politicians and so-called activists, for their own selfish interests at the expense of 6,500 Kenyans directly employed at the farm and another 28,000 who are employed indirectly by the company as suppliers.
Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy, and for the past 71 years that Del Monte has been in the country, it has changed one life after another. It has supported many generations and everyone I know, including my grandmother, mother, father, cousins, and many others, all have stories to share about this great company.
I have watched our children go through a free education system courtesy of Del Monte. I have seen them and our neighbours’ children build careers that have uplifted the status of our homes.
I have also received free healthcare from the company’s clinics. My children have all been treated at the same clinics and are in perfect health. My neighbours, many of whom work at Del Monte, have catered to their families’ needs courtesy of the salary they earn at the farm.
So, when all these politicians and activists started agitating for the Del Monte land immediately it was known that the leases were due for expiry, I became worried for the future of my community as these Kenyans who have worked so hard all their lives stand to lose everything they have built over the decades.
For many of us neighbouring the farm, if the renewal of the land leases is not sorted out, we stand to lose our livelihoods and our families will be affected.
Moreover, the local economy will be deeply affected as there will be no cash flow. Without these jobs, many families in the region will not be able to get by. Where will we go? Will the Murang’a County government give all of us jobs and the same provisions that Del Monte has been offering employees?
My humble plea to President Kenyatta is that he oversee this land row and ensure it is resolved amicably. We cannot afford to become another jobless society, especially during this time when the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy.
However, the dispute ends, let the verdict be fair to all parties.
Kamau Mwangi, Murang’a
First published on the Daily Nation